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Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in Attempts at Humor, Culture, Moving to Costa Rica, Residency | 12 comments

The Letter of the Law or The Spirit of the Letter

The Letter of the Law or The Spirit of the Letter

Letter ARCRAs we attempt to get things done here in Costa Rica we are beginning to see a common theme. Whether it is opening a bank account, creating an account for Internet for our upcoming move, or canceling a service, the power of the letter in Costa Rica is impressive.

You may be confused…A letter, what is that? Well, if you remember, it is a written or typed document, on an actual piece of paper, and can state many things depending on its purpose. Many times it just states our names, passport numbers and that the person writing it is our best friend and has been so for many years – despite the fact that we just met.

To open our bank account, scratch that, to attempt to open our bank account, a work still in progress, we needed a letter of recommendation and a utility bill.  The ARCR, a great letter-writing organization (practice makes perfect), provided the recommendation letter.  Unfortunately, when we were in San Jose to get fingerprinted and to open a bank account, we did not have a utility bill with us; it was our understanding that our attorney would “take care” of this requirement. Well he was unable to, so back in Grecia we attempted to open the account – utility bill and recommendation letter in hand.

“Sorry, this utility bill is in your landlords name; we need a letter from your landlord stating that you are renting from him – don’t put how long you are renting from him, just your names, passport numbers and that he is your best friend and he has been for many years, thank you. Oh, and also, I need a letter from your attorney instructing our bank how to handle the funds, since they will be used for residency purposes, and also stating that you all are great friends.”

…to be continued

Joseph Heller Would be Proud

In October we will be moving and will therefore have a new landlord. Our new landlord was telling me a story the other day about trying to attempt to have his landline phone service shut off. His home, like many in Costa Rica, is owned in a CR corporation and his phone bill is under that corporation as well. It stands to reason that the phone company would need a letter stating that he was in charge of the corporation and had the authority to shut off the service.  This he provided and he waited for 30 days for the service to be shut off and to receive his deposit back.

You may be thinking, “What happened after 30 days”? And you may be surprised by the answer – or not so much. Well, it turns out the letter, in this case, has a shelf-life of 30 days and because of the 30 day notice needed to turn off the service the letter provided 31 days earlier is now obsolete…. They’ll need another letter.

Vanna, Give Me a Letter

The essence of the letter needing in Costa Rica is this; it is the characters of the content that fulfill the requirement for the letter and not necessarily the content writers character; put another way, the letter is for the letters sake.

The spirit of the letter is the fulfillment of bureaucracy, plain and simple. Whether it is a stamp, seal, signature, document or yet another letter the true purpose of the required requirement is not to validate or assure but to prolong and ensure…ensure that the bureaucracy survives and thrives.

Hasta Pronto,


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Greg Seymour is a quitter. At 41 Greg and his wife Jen quit their jobs, sold damn near everything they owned and became Intentionally Unemployed and retired early to Costa Rica.
In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
Greg Seymour Amazon Author Page

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  1. Ummm….hmmmm

    I am tongue tied & this has only happened a handful of times.

    So…do letters from the states qualify for recommendation, like from banks, utility companies and friends?

    Since we hate the term Pura Vida (“screw you it’ll happen whenever!”)….how do you get things done?

    • “how do you get things done?” – Slowly and with patience. Like it or not, it will happen when it happens and with much persistence on your part.

      So, the letters I refer to in this article primarily have to do with in-country people. The ARCR did suggest a letter, notarized and apostilled, from our bank in the states, but apparently this was unnecessary. Mostly the letters I am referring to are “I know this guy and he is a good guy” type of letter. It does not seem to make a difference if that is true or not, just that you can get someone to vouch for you. I know it is confusing and as we experience more we will write.
      Keep reading,

  2. Gregorio, what an interesting way to operate. It looks like easy requirements though. Also, are you able to use PayPal there or American Bank Accounts? You may be trying to move your money which is a good idea (wink wink).

    • Not so different from getting stuff done in the States either. Just learning. Yeah, you can access US banks here but many times it involves a foreign service charge. Our main reason for an account here is to comply with the residency requirements. Basically, we need to be able to show a conversion of a certain amount of dollars to colones each month and the EASIEST way to accomplish this is by purchasing a CD that doles out money each month into a CR account.

  3. Now that you got this off your chest, I hope you feel better. Haha. I have been reading your blogs
    Very interesting. Enjoy your writing and your wine.

    • LOl – I do feel better; thanks for reading. I am glad you are enjoying the posts. You can enjoy some Wisconsin cheese with my whine….miss a good cheese.

  4. Enjoying your “blow by blow” newbie adventures in all things CR. I’ve been looking forward to giving it a go myself. Hopefully within the
    next few years. For now, it is really fun and helpful to read your blog. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Thanks for the comments Michel. I am having fun writing the posts – glad to hear people are having fun reading them. Good luck with your future plans and let me know if I can help in anyway.

  5. This was a very entertaining blog Greg! Funny and kept my interest. Thanx for doing all the leg work for us, btw! Jeanie

  6. Great stuff, I keeping notes. Was hoping to make the move with in the next year. Just trying to figure out how to make the move. You have scared me a bit, but I am going to keep up the research and follow your blog. Michael from Miami.

    • Hi Michael,

      No need to be scared. The more you know.. you know. If you are prepare, not much will phase you. However, if you are expecting just a cheaper version of the U.S. you may not like it.

      Feel free to shoot me an email with your concerns and questions at – I am happy to help.


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